Wild British Columbia

Some days I wonder what life would be like if I lived in another part of the world.  Well, today I was reminiscing about my brief whirlwind of a visit to British Columbia in December 2009, and thought to myself that it would be a great place to live one day, and in reality, it would be relatively easy, as I wouldn't even have to leave Canada.

But until that time comes, I'll just have to relive my memories of BC by looking back at my photos so here is a quick glimpse of my first visit to the West Coast...

Harrison Lake

Just outside Chilliwack

Looking up in North Vancouver

Looking down in North Vancouver

Bald Eagles enjoying their catch

until they lost their battle with the wolves.

The Sea-to-Sky Highway

On the way to Whistler

I actually had the chance to leave everything behind and start a new life with a brand new career in Squamish...
but I decided to skip the job fair in favour of taking in the natural beauty of the area.  Maybe one day, I'll find a job in BC or create my opportunity to go live there.... but in the meantime, I guess I'll just have to plan my next trip to the west coast.

Travelling Dream List

Every once in a while someone asks me, "Mike, where are you going next?"

And my answer is quite simply, "I don't know."

The reason I say this is that with some many interesting and different things to experience in our world, it's hard to choose just one, especially when you want to take on all of it. Then, of course, circumstances change all the time, from political unrest to natural disasters, let alone new opportunities. So for those reasons and for many others, it's hard to say with any certainty where in the world I'll land next but to help narrow things down a bit, here's a short list of some international trips I dream about, in no particular order...

The Alps
Watching the snow melt and the wildflowers bloom while hiking hut-to-hut in the Swiss Alps in the spring.

The Serengeti
Hot air ballooning and horseback riding through Africa to witness the Great Migration. 

The Great Barrier Reef
My swimming skills might need to improve beforehand but scuba diving amongst all the coral would be amazing.  Let's hope this natural wonder never gets destroyed by our activities.

New Zealand
Need I say more?
Judging from the footage only, I might just never leave NZ if I ever visit.

From watching the aurora borealis from inside your glass igloo at Hotel Kakslauttanen in Finland to enjoying the hot springs and the many other dramatic geological features of Iceland, at least two trips are in order here - one in the summer and the other during the winter.

Great beaches, exotic jungles, and cheap.  A backpacker's dream.  At least, that's what I've heard. I have to find out for myself. I definitely plan on going to Southeast Asia as soon as there's more stability in Thailand.

Having had a taste of South America earlier this year, I'm thirsty for more. Chile and Argentina are next on the list.

Chillin' with the penguins. What would be cooler than that!

Snow Biking

Besides world peace and good health for everyone, all I want for Christmas is a Ktrak for my daily winter commuting needs....

or maybe, just an SMX snowbike for some weekend fun!

Merry Christmas!

The Cabot Trail Moose

Considering it has been close to six months since my visit to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, I won't try remembering any specific details about Cape Breton Highlands National Park or the Cabot Trail.  Instead, I will present to you some of the amazing scenery you can find along this magnificent stretch of road.  It is no wonder that it is consistently ranks as one of the nicest drives in North America.

The photos don't do it justice but here's my attempt...
And so it begins...
Just a little warning of the dangers lying just off the hiking trail.
The sign points me in the right direction.

That's a nice spot for a house.
Yet another ignored warning sign...
though I must admit some waves were a bit rogue
despite the relatively calm conditions.
Where freshwater meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Yes, that's snow in May! 
Some snowdrifts were higher than me (and I'm taller than the car).

Based on the moose droppings seen everywhere along the hiking trails, there had to be a tonne of moose nearby. After not seeing even one of these Canadian icons all day long, they came out of the forest in droves as dusk approached.
These two just stood on the road until the trucker behind me had enough.

And again, the next morning...
Moose don't look that big until you're right next to them!
Unfortunately, I couldn't stay on Cape Breton Island any longer as I had to head back to Halifax to catch my flight but nevertheless my brief journey out East provided a great sampling of the splendours of Nova Scotia.  I'll definitely be going back for more!

Windy Cape Breton Island

After checking in at the hostel, I spent the rest of the day driving about Cape Breton Island.

Since it was a cool, dreary day, there was little point of checking out the sights along the Cabot Trail so I headed towards the Gulf of St. Lawrence where the breeze really picked up and watched the waves crash into the eroding shoreline.

I could have watched the waves all day but it was freezing!  My thin Goretex windbreaker wasn't cutting it today... I should have brought a toque and gloves along for the trip because the windchill numbed my fingers in just a few minutes. So there I was, driving along the coast, stopping once in while to take a few photos, and then quickly scurrying back to my warm car before I turned into ice.  I was a typical tourist and from the looks of things, the only tourist on the Island!  In fact, I saw so few people that at times I felt like I had missed a hurricane evacuation notice and was the only person left on the Island.

The weather made the scenery even more surreal and presented a healthy dose of the type of wild conditions Cape Bretoners have to face throughout the year.  The afternoon was soon coming to a close and my stomach was begging for some delicious Acadian seafood so the hunt for dinner got underway.  Now one of the things you soon realize about the Island is that they rely a lot on tourists so when the tourists aren't around (like in early May), most restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and attractions are simply closed for the winter season, and to my surprise, some don't even bothering opening until late June.  So here I was, a hungry tourist looking to shell out some decent cash for a meal, but without many open places to spend it.  After quite a bit of driving, I finally found an empty restaurant in a small Acadian town to appease my hunger.

After that, I found my way back to the hostel, where I had the whole place to myself.

The sky was starting the clear.  Tomorrow morning was shaping up to be a very nice day.  It was time to start prepping for my excursions along the Cabot Trail.

Bear on the Lake HI Hostel Review

After spending a few nights in a king-sized bed at a nice Halifax hotel and then bunking one night at a so-so Halifax hostel, it was time to head to check out the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island.  It was early May and almost all accommodations on the Island were still closed for the winter season.  Nevertheless, I came across the Bear on the Lake Guesthouse online and booked a night at the hostel.  My hostel experiences in Canada were nothing too spectacular to date, but this all changed at Bear on the Lake, where I was warmly welcomed by super friendly Kat, who made the place a home away from home.

From the outside, the hostel looks pretty ordinary.

But after taking off your shoes off at the door, you'll quickly notice the spectacular view of the Bras d'Or Lakes from the dining room.

And here are the rest of the common areas...

A big kitchen

The patio..

The nice, roomy washroom...

 And finally, the bunkbed bedrooms...

  • the great view of Bras D'or Lake from the large patio, lounge area, and dining room
  • large kitchen
  • homey, private washroom
  • free wireless Internet access
  • easy access to Cabot Trail
  • you can hang your laundry outside if you want.
  • Bed could be a bit firmer
  • The bedroom ceiling fan on max was loud and seemingly out of control

So if you're looking for a great and inexpensive place to sleep and relax near the Cabot Trail, I would have no problems recommending a stay at the Bear because I for one, will definitely be going back the next time I visit the Cabot Trail.

If you found this unbiased review helpful, please click on one of the interesting Google advertising links on this blog to help me out. Thanks.

Porter Mountain

After conquering the Adirondack's Cascade Mountain, it was off to tackle Porter Mountain.  But before starting the ascent, the trail headed downhill through muddy, slippery, and rocky terrain.  It was definitely a bit challenging

but after making our way through the mud,

we eventually started hiking uphill again and found ourselves at the peak where we were greeted once again by an amazing view of the fall colors in the Adirondacks.

Here's a 360 degree view from Porter Mountain...

So there it is, Porter Mountain, the second Adirondack High Peak of the day. Now it was time to head back to our Lake Placid lodge and relax!

Cascade Mountain

After passing the car inspection at the Canada-USA border the day before, we woke up fairly early Saturday morning to get a head start on the expected masses hiking up Cascade Mountain in Adirondack Park in New York State.

The area was hit with heavy rains earlier in the week but luckily for us, the rain stopped and sunshine was in the forecast.  Still early and misty, we started our trek up the mountain.

 It was quite the view when we reached the chilly and windy peak

But the clouds quickly lifted...

and the view was spectacular!

After taking in the view atop my first Adirondack High Peak, it was time to head back down from the bald peak and make our way to Porter Mountain.

Goodbye Awesome

June 17, 2010 (Day 30)

The time had finally come.  

Yes, my trip to South America was quickly coming to an end as we boarded our plane back to Canada. 

A bitter sweet moment.

Four weeks ago, we started our journey, not knowing what lied ahead of us but a few ideas of what we wanted to do, and so it began with visits to Cusco, the Amazon Rainforest, Machu Picchu, Puno, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana, La Paz, Death Road, the Salar de Uyuni, San Pedro de Atacama, Arica, Arequipa, and finally back up to Lima. And we survived!  It was an amazing trip filled with spectacular experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

That being said, it was good to be coming back home.  Once we hit Arica, with all the major highlights of our trip done and over with, and all the amenities of modern society quickly returning into our everyday lives, I felt like it was time to come back home to family, friends, fresh air, lush green forests, and a bath tub.  Packing and unpacking a backpack almost everyday was starting to get a little old as well.

As you may have noticed, my posts for the latter part of the trip waned a bit. I apologize for that but I just wanted to get this done while my memories are still pretty fresh in my mind.  I had big plans of keeping a journal of my journeys but that quickly came to an end after I was still writing about Day 1 on Day 11.  Yes, I was more interested in taking in as much of the local sights and culture than making notes in my journal or heaven forbid, spend time documenting them in front of a computer.  I was on vacation after all, and I was going to enjoy every minute of it, as best I could.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask me.  You know how to reach me and there is always the Comments section below each blog post, where you can express your thoughts.  And if you want to keep track of my journeys in the future, you can always subscribe to my blog.

As for my next trip, who knows? 
I have a long list of places I'd love to visit and there's probably an even longer list of great places I don't even know about yet so we will see what happens...

Thanks for dropping by.

Countdown in Lima

June 16, 2010 (Day 29)

Last night, we walked down Calle de las Pizzas (Pizza Street) to find a place to eat a late dinner and sure enough, solicitors barraged us with their menus until we settled on a place to eat.  Such pesky soliciting tactics were overwhelming and quite frankly obnoxious, and tarnished the potentially great atmosphere of this out-of-the-way pedestrian mall.  We had enough of these experiences over the past month so I guess we were glad they would soon come to an end.

Yes, it was the last full day of our trip, and I was set on seeing downtown Lima.

With a population of close to 8.5 million, Lima is the largest city I've visited to date, and I wasn't about to let its less-than-appealing tourism reputation get in the way of seeing its downtown.  After taxiing to the historic center of Lima, which I have since learned is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, we walked around the city core and took in the sights.
The World Cup was on and South Americans love their soccer so a big screen was set up in the main plaza so no one would miss a second of the action.
We concluded our visit of downtown Lima with a pleasant afternoon meal at a little restaurant just around the corner from the main plaza as we people-watched and enjoyed our last hours in South America together.

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